Although we've been critical of Governor Spitzer, we are cautiously optimistic about his ambitious agenda for upstate revival. What we're concerned about is the fact that nearly all of it is dependent on an agreeable state Legislature and a state not crippled by deficit.
The fact that a governor came upstate for the first time to deliver a speech to address the concerns of this economically troubled region and to propose remedies, cannot be underestimated. Spitzer said in an interview with upstate editorial boards last month that his legacy rides on his ability to turn upstate around. If that's not so, it ought to be. He was elected in part on his promise to reverse upstate stagnation.
If the state does not move this year to infuse upstate with more capital and policy reform, the looming recession could deepen the problems. Now is the time.
But the governor and lawmakers will have to prioritize. The state is facing a deficit pegged at $4.7 billion. It could be larger if the mortgage crisis continues to roil the financial community. Spitzer's apparent answer is to borrow some or most of the $1 billion proposed for an upstate revitalization fund. Unfortunately, he did not use his speech to provide more detail.
Adding to New York's already towering debt only delays the pain. The right approach is to cut spending and to invest wisely with what's saved. The key is to have goals — restore broken cities, a jobs-creating environment, lower taxes on middle-class property owners — and to move resolutely in those directions. Local consolidation is vital, as Spitzer said, to reduce government.
Spitzer touched all the bases Wednesday. His review of upstate's needs was comprehensive. All that's missing now is action.